The Minnesota Timberwolves lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-90, but the real winner might be Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins, facing his kind-of former team, was the second-most impressive player on the floor. He finished with 33 points on 14-of-25 shooting, showing the scoring side that some questioned coming out of the draft. It was that raw, unproven ability that made the Cavaliers trade for the win-now player in Kevin Love.
Who was most impressive? LeBron James. That’s the ticket that Wiggins was really cashed in for.
In his return to Minnesota, Love turned in a ‘solid’ effort with 14 points and 17 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough for fans of Minnesota to miss him.
Hindsight is the worst, and saying that the Cavaliers should regret the off-season trade is lazy. Kevin Love probably continues to put up monster numbers on a mediocre-at-best Timberwolves team and makes Cavaliers fans question the front office again. Who knows how Andrew Wiggins would fit next to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, but it wouldn’t be how he fits in Minnesota. Most importantly, would one LeBron James sign with the Cavaliers had he not had the guarantee of Kevin Love joining him? Unlikely.
Wiggins is the man in Minnesota. He has free reign. He doesn’t have the scowl of LeBron James or extreme playoff pressure every time he makes a mistake. As a rookie, it’s a much better situation for Wiggins.
Not worrying about the soap opera that’s been the Cavaliers this season, the Timberwolves can find solace in the fact that they made the right decision. Wiggins went toe-to-toe with LeBron James all night, despite playing next to a gunning Kevin Martin and a point guard named Lorenzo Brown playing 48 minutes.
At 19, Wiggins is far from a finished project. And one game isn’t going to make his career. But, it’s a good start.
He’s averaging 19.8 points per game in 2015 while shooting 47 percent in 17 games. His turnovers are down and his ceiling is sky high. What happens when Martin is back in full swing? What happens when Wiggins gets his point guard Ricky Rubio back? He’ll only get better.
But do the Cavaliers really care? LeBron James wasn’t coming to play with Dion Waiters, Kyrie Irving and Wiggins. Wiggins is great, but he’s not LeBron, and Cleveland couldn’t afford to wait for him to become something even close. Wiggins is shining, but his team is not; meanwhile, the Cavaliers are turning a corner and becoming that team in the East that we expected from the start.
Kevin Love is still a very good player. A drop in the box scores was expected, and the price Love had to pay in order to have a real shot at winning a championship. Let’s not get carried away saying things like “the Cavaliers made a mistake in trading Wiggins.” No, no they didn’t.
But it’s hard not to at least think about that narrative. Was 14 points and 17 rebounds exactly what the Cavs thought they were getting? It’s fair to say they want better in the scoring department, especially on a night that Kyrie Irving shoots 4-of-16. And when the guy that was next in line throws an equal shooting night as LeBron James, it’s hard not to wonder what if.
But in essence, the Cavaliers traded Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love AND LeBron James.
In the end, it was just a win over a bottom-feeding Western Conference team for the Cavaliers. For Andrew Wiggins, it can be so much more. For the Timberwolves? Validation.